Quevega 'ahead of schedule'
Those who stayed behind after racing at Punchestown were afforded a relatively rare sighting of Quevega as Willie Mullins put a number of his big names through their paces.
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The five-times OLBG David Nicholson Mares' Hurdle heroine travelled in a group of five over a circuit, led by Mourad (Katie Walsh) and also featuring the David Casey-ridden Fiveforthree, Ruby Walsh on Tarla, and Emmet Mullins partnering a new French recruit who caught the eye.
Having her first trip away this year, Quevega finished in front under Paul Townend.
Mullins said: "I was very happy with Quevega there. It was her first little bit away from home and we are currently ahead of schedule, compared to last season.
"Fingers crossed all will go well between now and Cheltenham. She will go there without a run - if it isn't broken, why fix it?"
He added: "Ruby was very pleased with Tarla, I'm not really sure of plans for her at this stage, but she's a very nice broodmare prospect.
"The Boyne Hurdle at Navan could be a possibility for Mourad."
Ruby Walsh had earlier partnered Champagne Fever as they led a number of runners pencilled in for next weekend's Leopardstown Hennessy meeting.
Walsh jumped a full circuit on the grey, in company with Emmet Mullins on Rubi Ball, Townend on Ballycasey, Katie Walsh on Prince De Beauchene and Patrick Mullins on Quel Esprit.
Mullins said: "I was delighted with them all. They are all ready to go and could run next weekend."
Meanwhile, Sirene D'Ainay, the mare Quevega beat into second at Cheltenham last year, bounced back to winning ways in the five-runner Prix Gaston Phoebus, a conditions chase at Pau.
The Emmanuel Clayeux-trained eight-year-old won a hurdle race at the same Pau meeting in 2013 prior to running Quevega to a length and a half.
Since then, Sirene D'Ainay has put in two disappointing runs in October followed by three consecutive second place finishes at Pau before getting her head back in front.